Commentary on Revelation (covers all chapters from 1 thru 22, including Introduction)
Copyright © 2019 by Steve Sewell, Theology First. All Rights Reserved
All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
This is where Revelation starts to get really interesting. From this point forward, this book takes on somewhat of a different look and feel about it. In this chapter we have the locusts and two hundred million horsemen; in chapter 11 we have the two witnesses; in chapter 12 we have the woman and child and great red dragon, along with the war in Heaven; in chapter 13 we have the two beasts and the mark of the beast. Each has basically the same thing in view, which is the ongoing spiritual warfare between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.
With this chapter we see the end-of-the-world events begin to unfold. The fifth and sixth trumpets gives us a general picture of how things will end in the world. More specifically, I believe these two trumpets are the gathering of nations (by Satan) and the worldwide assault against the Church, as also described in Rev 17:11-14 and Rev 20:7-9. The sixth trumpet of this chapter continues in chapter 11. I believe that with these two trumpets, we’re given a general idea of how these events will develop and come to pass.
But let me be clear. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. This is complicated. How the nations are gathered together as one against the people of Christ, how they unify politically, how the world religions unify, is all very very difficult to envision. It’s more important that we get the general picture correct, than it is that we get the fine details correct. We can afford to be a little off or lacking in the details, but we cannot afford to be wrong about the events themselves. We at least have to be in the right ballpark. Amillennialism and Dispensational Premillennialism are in two different ballparks.
There are several keys that allow us to interpret this chapter with confidence:
1 – Revelation 8:13 indicates that the essence of these remaining trumpets are different than the others. In other words, they’re in a different category. Also, use of the term “woe,” and the repeating of it three times, indicates that these remaining trumpets are of a more serious nature. I believe it also refers to the final years of history prior to the return of Christ. In other words, I believe that all three of these woes occur in the latter years.
However, in regard to the fifth trumpet, since it’s foundationally spiritual in nature (spiritual deception), we can see it developing throughout the Church age (Christian era, gospel era). What we see in this chapter is the culmination of the fifth trumpet — that is, the final result of or the final end of this trumpet.
2 – The abyss mentioned here in Rev 9:2 and in Rev 11:7, is always related to demons or Satan in the New Testament (Lu 8:27-31; Rev 11:7; Rev 17:8; Rev 20:1-3), except in one place: Ro. 10:7. Specifically, in the text before us, I believe it refers to the releasing of Satan to unite the world and to gather the nations against the Church (Rev 20:1-3; 7-9).
3 – Light and darkness is contrasted in verse 2.
4 – The locusts and horses can’t be actual locusts and horses because of the description of them. Also, real locusts have no king (Pr 30:27), but these have a king. Therefore, these have to be symbolic.
5 – Only unbelievers are targeted and afflicted. Thus we’re dealing with the spiritual unity of darkness among the unbelievers of the world in the latter years. This leads to what we see in Rev 11:1-14, which is a worldwide assault against the Church just before the return of Christ in judgment (Rev 19:11-21; 20:1-3; 7-10; ch 16).
6 – Mentioning the “lion” in the descriptions of both trumpets is a compelling clue that we’re dealing with Satanic/demonic activity, for Peter describes Satan as “a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). Scripture must interpret Scripture.
7 – Identification of the Euphrates River (vs. 14).
It’s clear that what we’re dealing with in this chapter, in both trumpets, is demonic activity, which has the latter years of the world in view. Specifically, I believe this chapter reveals the preparation (fifth trumpet) and conquest of the world (sixth trumpet) before the return of Christ in judgment, which all begins with the releasing of Satan (Rev 20:7-10).
The sixth trumpet is evidently an extension of the fifth trumpet. In the fifth trumpet we see the spiritual darkness and torment of mankind because of demonic influence and the way world events develop. In the fifth trumpet we see the beginning of the gathering of nations. However, to be clear, foundationally, we see the effects of the fifth trumpet throughout the Church age. Because foundationally, this is a spiritual matter. The final stage of this trumpet is what’s primarily in view in this chapter.
In the sixth trumpet, we see the gathering of nations completed. Involved in this gathering of nations is the military conquest of the world. Once that has been accomplished, then they will move against the Church worldwide. This gathering of nations against God’s people is what is known as the War of Armageddon (Rev 16:12-16; Rev 19:11-21; Rev 20:1-3; 7-9).
Overview of End Time Events
Here’s a general overview of how I believe the world ends:
While we can’t be certain exactly how things will develop, or the exact order of events, the New Testament does give us the general picture of how things will end — especially as revealed in the book of Revelation:
1 – I believe as we get closer to the return of Christ, Christians will become more and more hated and persecuted around the world. I believe the nations of the world will become more and more united in their hatred toward Christians, because the world ends with the nations against the Church (Rev 20:7-9; Rev 11:7; Rev 17:11-14). Nothing like this could ever happen overnight, but would obviously have to be a gradual progression — but will accelerate and intensify as we get closer to the return of Christ. It seems reasonable that much of this progression will have to occur before the “man of sin” rises to prominence and power.
2 – At some point, toward the end, the “man of sin” (or “man of lawlessness”) of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, will rise and gain world power, being fully possessed by Satan. I believe this is the releasing of Satan of Rev 20:7-10 through this man (also Rev 9:1-2 and Rev 11:7; Rev 17:11). At the right time, probably right before he moves the world against the Church, he will proclaim himself as God (2 Th 2:4). How all this will develop and come to pass is difficult to determine. How long all this takes is also difficult to determine. But this whole process of gathering of nations could actually take several years.
3 – The “man of sin” will perform “all power and signs and lying wonders,” (2 Th 2:9), which will deceive the nations and bring them under his authority. While the “man of sin” is rising to prominence, people will still be able to reject the false and accept the truth of Christ. During that time, the individuals and nations that don’t want to submit to either Christ or to this world alliance, will be destroyed (Rev 9:14-19. Alluded to in 17:16-18).
Common sense tells us that in the process of gathering the nations together under this “man of sin,” not every person or every nation is going to submit. In their rebellion, they will be destroyed. I believe this is what we see in the sixth trumpet (Rev 9:13-21). Again, how long this process will take, we don’t know. It could take several years after Satan has been “released” from the abyss (Rev 9: 1-2; Rev 20:7-10; Rev 11:7). At some point in this process, the “man of sin” will proclaim himself as God, providing evidence through “signs and lying wonders” (2 Th 2:9-10), deceiving the whole world (Rev 17:11-18), except for followers of Christ.
4 – Again, being indwelt by Satan, the “man of sin” will deceive the world into believing that he is God in the flesh, demanding worship of all people (2 Th 2:4). That means that the religions of the world will be destroyed (rejected and outlawed) and replaced with the world united in their worship of this man, whom they will believe to be God in human form. I believe that is what we see in Rev 17:16-17 in the destruction of the “great harlot” (“Babylon”) which I believe to be the whole world system, with all the false gods and false religions of the world being central. The only ones who won’t join the world in the worship of this “man of sin,” are Christians. Satan’s desire to be worshiped will be fulfilled through the worship of this “man of sin.”
5 – I believe the “man of sin” is the “eighth king” of Rev 17:11. It’s under his leadership that the the “ten kings” of Rev 17:12 (world confederacy of nations) will turn against the Church (Rev 11:7-10; 17:14), but will be destroyed by Christ when He returns in judgment, raining fire upon the “man of sin” and the entire world as seen in Rev 19:11-21 and Rev 20:7-9 (also Rev 6:12-17; 11:15-19; 14:7-20; 16:17-21; Rev 17:14-18; Rev 18).
6 – The resurrection of believers (both dead and alive) will take place just before Jesus returns in judgment of the world (Rev 11:11-12; Rev 17:14). This will be followed by the resurrection of the unsaved, the Great White Throne Judgement, and finally the Eternal Kingdom of the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1-2).
7 – The Church will still be here when the “man of sin” is revealed, as 2 Th 2:3 reveals. We Christians will see the rise of this world ruler and confederacy of nations. However, we will be resurrected right before Christ destroys them.
(Note: The resurrection and the rapture of living believers occurs at the same time. Same event.)
8- I tend to believe that the “man of sin” will be the Twelfth Imam or Mahdi of Islam (prophet of savior), and that the ten nation world confederacy (Rev 17:12) will also be Islamic — at least until the “man of sin” claims to be God and “confirmed” by miracles. At first I believe he will be recognized as the Twelfth Imam, but then at some point he will claim to be God himself. Based on what Rev 17:16-17 says, it seems clear that all religions of the world – including Islam – will be completely rejected and outlawed, and all worship will be of Satan, in the form of this “man of sin.”
9 – I can’t be certain that the “man of sin” will be the Twelfth Imam, or that the ten nation confederacy will be Islamic, but based on what Rev 9:14 and Rev 16:12 says in regard to the Euphrates River, it seems reasonable that’s what we’re looking at, because the “kings from the east” (Rev 16:12) would have to refer to the nations that are east of Israel and the Euphrates River, which are Islamic. It makes perfect sense, especially when we consider the increasing dominance of and the goals of Islam in the world today. But again, it’s just an educated and reasonable guess at this point.
How exactly all this comes about and in precisely what order or at what point, is very difficult to say. I think there will be a lot of surprises that we can’t see right now.
(Rev 9:1) – 1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven fallen unto the earth: and there was given to him the key of the pit of the abyss.
Keys: Rev 20:1-3; 7-10; Rev 16:12-16; 2 Thes 2:6-8
Fifth Trumpet — Releasing of Satan
(Matt 24:5-6, 9-14, 23-24; Mark 13:5-13,22; Luke 21:8-19)
(Governmental, Political, Religious, Ideological Merging)
Key of interpretation:
Rev 20:1-3; 7-9
1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed for a little time.
7 And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8 and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9 And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them.
When we compare Rev 9:1-2 with Rev 20:1-3, 7-9, I think it’s really clear that what’s being revealed in the fifth trumpet is the releasing of Satan from the “abyss” or his “prison.” Satan is now, in our day, bound. That is, he’s being restrained from deceiving the nations to bring them against the Church. At the appropriate time, Satan will be “loosed” (released) out of the abyss – figuratively speaking – and will then at that time gather the nations, which they will then move against God’s people. We see the beginning of that process of gathering here in the fifth trumpet. We see the completion of it in the sixth trumpet, which is where we see the nations of the world move against the Church.
I believe this will be a time where the world begins to come together governmentally, politically and ideologically, and where all the false religions of the world begin to unite. The worldview of the entire world will gradually become the same. As part of the gathering of nations, there will need to be a military conquest, but we don’t see that until the sixth trumpet: This military conquest will be for the purpose of defeating countries that oppose this unification of the world, which, once complete, they will together move against the Church.
I also believe that this releasing of Satan is when the “man of sin” (2 Th 2) begins to rise to prominence and power, whom Satan will fully indwell. This is their time. It’s really hard to say for sure, but I don’t believe it’s until after the military conquest of the world (sixth trumpet) that the “man of sin” proclaims himself as God, where at that point, the whole world of unbelievers will be deceived and submit to his authority — which will then allow them to move against the Church as one (sixth trumpet) — which is the beginning of the War of Armageddon. This war ends upon the return of Christ in judgment (seventh trumpet).
Just so we’re clear, in the fifth trumpet, while the “man of sin” is rising to prominence and power, I don’t believe he reveals himself as “God” until the events of the sixth trumpet. But I could be wrong.
So then, it seems clear that the fifth trumpet marks the end of the “1000 year” period of Rev 20:1-10, which is the end of the Church age. Thus the fifth and sixth trumpets occur just prior to the return of Christ (seventh trumpet). However, it could take years for everything to come together. I believe this “star” is an angel of Heaven, the same angel of Rev 20:1-3, who binds Satan for a “thousand years” in the “abyss.” In the next verse we see that this “key” opens the pit that unleashes the forces of evil, led by Satan (vs. 11):
(Rev 9:2) – 2 And he opened the pit of the abyss; and there went up a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
We see here a contrast between light and darkness, with the “sun” being darkened by the “smoke” of this abyss, which we already know is associated with the demonic world (see #2, Intro).
Throughout Scripture we see darkness contrasted with the light of Christ:
[Matt 4:16; Lu 1:79; Lu 22:53; Jn 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 12:35,46; Acts 26:18; Ro 13:12; 1 Cor 4:5; 2 Cor 4:6; 6:14; Eph 5:8; 6:12; Col 1:13; 1 Pet 2:9; 1 Th 5:5; 1 Jn 1:5-6]
Therefore, I believe we can safely identify the “sun” as being symbolic of the light of Christ and the light of truth, and the “smoke” as being symbolic of the darkness of evil and all that opposes the truth. Of course, the light of Christ can never be truly “darkened,” but I believe this is to emphasize that this is the day of darkness, the time where evil reaches its peak in the world. This is their time — before they’re ultimately destroyed by Christ.
Again, I believe this is the releasing of Satan from the abyss where he has been bound throughout the Church age to prevent him from gathering the nations of the world against the Church. In this passage, we see that the time for that has come. This is the beginning of that. So this gives us the picture of Satan giving his demonic army the command to go!
In regard to the “man of sin,” I want to provide a brief commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, which will help you see how all this works together:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
(2 Th 2:1) – 1 Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him;
Paul is referring to the resurrection of the God’s people (“our gathering”), which occurs at the time of Christ’s return (“coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”).
(2 Th 2:2) – 2 to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand;
NET – 2 not to be easily shaken from your composure or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.
“The day of the Lord” refers to the time of His return in judgment and to gather His people unto Himself, which is followed by the “new heavens and new earth” (2 Pe 3:10-13; Rev 21:1-2).
(2 Th 2:3) – 3 let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,
NET – 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.
Here Paul says that the return of Christ (“day of the Lord”) will not happen until this “man of sin” is revealed in “his time” (vs. 6). In other words, this “man of sin” will rise to power shortly before Jesus returns in judgment.
Greek word for this is Apostasia.
The Greek word for this is translated in two different ways: the falling away (or the apostasy) and the rebellion. I’m inclined to believe that “the rebellion” is the correct rendering, because in the same sentence this word is tied to the “man of sin,” and the very next verse describes his rebellion. This rebellion is directly associated with Satan (vs. 9), who rebels against God for the last time through this “man of sin” in an effort to be worshipped by the people of the world. Again, verse 4 confirms that interpretation. Of course, this rebellion against God is also on the part of the people of the world who give their allegiance to the “man of sin.” This rebellion also refers to the all-out assault against Christians just prior to the return of Christ — known as the “War of Armageddon” (see commentary on chapter 11:7 and 16:16).
There are those who see this passage as the “apostasy” or the “falling away” from the Christian faith. In that regard, many believe this refers to the Roman Catholic Church. However, I don’t believe that fits the context or flow of the passage. Whichever of those two words one uses for this Greek word, Apostasia, it’s directly tied to the “man of sin,” not to the Church or the Christian faith. In other words, Paul doesn’t say that it’s a falling away or an apostasy from the Christian faith. It simply says “the Apostasia.” Paul then connects that word to the “man of sin.”
The interpretation given in this commentary is supported by Leon Morris, who wrote the Tyndale Commentary on 2 Thessalonians. I’ll quote part of what he says about this verse (bold mind):
The necessary prelude to the coming of Christ is “the rebellion.” The AV translation is defective at two points here: it does not give the definite article, and falling away hardly gives the force of apostasia. The article stamps the rebellion as something that was known to the readers, and evidently it had formed part of Paul’s previous teaching. Our difficulty is that we have not the advantage the Thessalonians had in this matter. In classical Greek the word apostasia denoted a political or military rebellion; but in the Greek Old Testament we find it used of rebellion against God (e.g. Jos. xxii. 22), and this becomes the accepted Biblical usage. Paul’s thought is that in the last times there will be an outstanding manifestation of the powers of evil arrayed against God. Cf. Mt xxiv. 10ff.; 1 Tim. iv. 1-3; 2 Tim. iii. 1-9, iv. 3f. (does Rev. xii. 7ff. Refer to the same kind of events?). It is as though Satan were throwing all his forces into one last despairing effort.
Therefore, the rendering of “rebellion” fits the context better than “apostasy” or “falling away.” Note Morris’ sentence: “In classical Greek the word apostasia denoted a political or military rebellion; but in the Greek Old Testament we find it used of rebellion against God.” This is exactly how this commentary on Revelation views the fifth and sixth trumpets. I believe that all three of these types of rebellion is involved in these two trumpets. Namely, we see a political and military rebellion, and of course, rebellion against God and His people.
(2 Th 2:4) – 4 he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.
This describes Satan perfectly. He rebelled against God in Heaven because he wanted to take God’s place. He was thus, kicked out of Heaven. So at the very end of the world, Satan will again seek to be worshipped, through this “man of sin,” this “eighth king” (Rev 17:11).
Where Paul refers to the “temple of God,” this is figurative language, and not to be taken as a literal, physical temple, as Dispensationalism teaches. It simply means that Satan will turn against all the religions and idols and philosophies of the world (Rev 17:16-17) – particularly against the Church of Christ – and make himself the sole object of worship as god of all people. In other words, reference to the “temple of God” is merely figurative language to refer to his desire and forceful last effort to dethrone the true God of the universe — as he takes full possession of this “man of sin.” But again, since we know that the true temple of God is His Church (1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21), it’s Christ and His people who are the primary target of their hatred (Satan and his people).
(2 Th 2:5-6) – 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season.
This “man of sin” will be revealed in “his own time,” which coincides with the releasing of Satan (Rev 20:1-4, 7-10) and the time period of Christ’s return (vs. 8). Therefore, I believe this “retraining” refers to the restraint or “binding” of Satan during the Church age (Rev 20:2). Therefore, the releasing of Satan and the revealing of the “man of sin,” occur at the same time. Once Satan is released (Rev 20:7), then the “man of sin” will rise in power, and will ultimately move against the Church (Rev 11:7; 20:7-9) once he has proclaimed himself as “God,” whom Christ will destroy in His return:
(2 Th 2:7) – 7 For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way.
Again, I believe this “restraint” is the binding of Satan in Rev 20:1-2 by the angel over the abyss (see commentary on those verses). I believe this angel is the one who “restrains” until he himself is “taken out of the way.” In other words, when he’s out of the way and Satan is finally free. Satan, who will work through the “lawless one” (“man of sin” – vs. 3) when the time comes, is now being “restrained” from gathering the nations against the people of Christ until the time that God has set, which is just before Jesus returns in judgment of them. This “gathering” (vs. 8) is what is known as the “War of Armageddon” (Rev 16:16).
(2 Th 2:8-9) – 8 And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; 9 even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
NET – 9 The arrival of the lawless one will be by Satan’s working with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders,
Again, I believe this “man of sin” will be completely indwelt by Satan himself, and will, therefore, be able to work “all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders” among the people of the world — deceiving everyone except those who belong to Christ.
(2 Th 2:10) – 10 and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
NET – 10 and with every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing, because they found no place in their hearts for the truth so as to be saved.
I believe that all who will be saved, will be saved by this point in time. In other words, I believe the Church will be complete just prior to the glorious return of Christ — at which time we’re also resurrected.
(2 Th 2:11-12) – 11 And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: 12 that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
NET – 11 Consequently God sends on them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. 12 And so all of them who have not believed the truth but have delighted in evil will be condemned.
I believe that this means that all who have already made a final decision against Christ, will “believe what is false” in regard to this “man of sin” and whom he presents himself to be. In other words, there will be worldwide acceptance of him as “God.” The outcome for all those people, will be eternal “judgment” (“condemnation”). In the worldwide rejection of the truth of Christ, it will be very easy for the people of the world to unite in “believing what is false.” In rejection of the truth, there is no other option but to believe the false.
Let me be clear, God is not a deceiver. The Bible makes it clear that Satan is the deceiver of the world (Rev 12:9; 13:14). In fact, in context, Rev 20:8 plainly says that it’s Satan who will “deceive the nations,” and bring them against the Church. Therefore, we’re not to interpret this to mean that God deceives the world with a common lie that all will be made to believe. Rather, that it’s through God’s releasing of Satan that this “deluding influence” is accomplished, as Satan himself does the actual deceiving.
End of Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2.
(Rev 9:3) – 3 And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
These “locusts” can’t be anything but demonic beings. However, they’re not to be understood as demons in the form of locusts. These locusts are merely symbolic. I believe locusts are depicted because of the way they swarm and devour everything in its path. Consider what Peter said:
(1 Pe 5:8) – 8 Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
Spiritually, that’s exactly what the devil and his army of demons do. They attack and blind and destroy:
(2 Cor 4:4) – 4 in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them.
An invasion of locusts is devastating, destroying entire crops. Swarms can number in the millions. Here are a couple videos of that:
While swarms of locusts devour everything in its path, they do not hurt human beings, which is why I believe “scorpions” are mentioned in the same description, because scorpions do hurt humans. While their sting is very painful, they don’t normally kill. Notice in verse 5, the scorpion sting does not lead to death, but only “torment.” We don’t see “death” till we get to the sixth trumpet, verse 15.
So then, we see demonic activity depicted as innumerable and widespread like devouring locusts, and tormenting like stinging scorpions. However, it seems clear that this demonic army is symbolic of the people and nations and armies of the world being gathered together as one, where together, they will ultimately move against the Church — as seen in the sixth trumpet. It’s the spiritual attack on unbelievers that leads to this revolt against God’s people. It’s spiritual darkness and blindness that leads to the hatred of the truth that is in Christ and His Church.
(Rev 9:4) – 4 And it was said unto them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.
The fact that these “locusts” were instructed not to “hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree,” again reveals that these are not actual locusts. Also, the fact that they were only allowed to hurt those who “have not the seal of God,” indicates that these are spiritual attacks of torment, not physical. In order to bring the nations together, there must first be a spiritual attack on unbelievers to bring them to that point. This fifth trumpet reveals the beginning and progression of that, which could several take years.
The “seal of God,” is a spiritual seal (mark) that identifies and protects the people of God (see commentary Rev 7:3-4).
(Rev 9:5) – 5 And it was given them that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when it striketh a man.
In order to bring the world together – with the ultimate goal of moving against the Church – those who don’t want to submit must be exposed, and then eliminated. We see the exposure in this trumpet, and then elimination in the sixth trumpet. It’s impossible to know how the world will progress and come together as a world power (Rev 17:11-13). But obviously the world will go through great changes. Alliances will be formed. World leaders will emerge, the “man of sin” in particular. However, we can be sure that not everyone will want to be a part of this world plan. In general, this is a spiritual attack on all the unbelievers of the world. This has to be so in order to deceive the nations to bring them together.
However, in the early stages of this development, I don’t believe this means that every unbeliever will be in favor of this world unification. I believe they will rebel and become marked people and marked nations. When the world begins to rapidly change, I believe this will cause great spiritual and emotional distress for the people. I believe this is what the “torment” is referring to in this passage. While they won’t want Christ, they also won’t want to go where the world wants to take them. Some nations, in particular, will rebel. That must be true, for we see a world military conquest in the sixth trumpet. Those nations that don’t want to be a part of this one world alliance, will pay a price for it. They will be moved against militarily.
While there will be a spiritual attack on all unbelievers in order to deceive the world, I believe the “torment” mentioned here refers primarily to those unbelievers who don’t want to be a part of this new world order. This will cause great conflict for individuals and for nations. They will be tormented because while they reject the truth, they will also reject this new direction of the world. They will become very conflicted.
“not kill them”
I believe this refers to the “one third” of verse 15. In other words, it’s not that there won’t be death during this time, but there won’t be the death of the one third of the sixth trumpet. In other words, death of the “one third” refers to those who die in the military takeover of the world. This fifth trumpet is the time of preparation for that time, the time of spiritual deception and the beginning of this world gathering.
The number “five” is half of ten, which is very prominent in this book (Rev 2:10; 5:11; 9:16; 12:3; 13:1; 17:3). And of course, we have the multiples of ten in the 144,000 (see commentary Rev 7:4). Thus the number ten represents perfection and/or completion.
Therefore, I believe this “five months,” being half of ten, is symbolic of the first half of this gathering of nations against the Church, which is a time of preparation, a time where the world begins to unify politically and ideologically and religiously. The second half is completed in the sixth trumpet. With the unification complete, the world alliance will move against dissenting nations militarily, which will then be followed by the worldwide assault against the Church.
I need to add that until the “man of sin” announces to the world that he is “God,” thereby deceiving all people except Christians, unbelievers will still be able to come to faith in Christ, even during that time when this “man of sin” is rising to power. In the early stages of development, I believe this man will simply be seen as a rising world leader.
(Rev 9:6) – 6 And in those days men shall seek death, and shall in no wise find it; and they shall desire to die, and death fleeth from them.
NET – 6 In those days people will seek death, but will not be able to find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.
I believe this whole verse is figurative language, and not to be taken literally. Generally, I believe this describes the inner turmoil and hopelessness many people will feel when they see the world changing to such an extreme and so rapidly. Just as people become numb from “scorpion” stings, people will become numb from what’s happening with the world. The feeling of desperation will set in. It will make many want to die. In other words, “death will flee from them.” Without Christ, a sense of hopelessness is all that’s left for those who want neither Christ nor the changes taking place in the world. They will want life and the world and their own country to continue as they’ve always known it.
We’re not to understand this verse to mean that no one will die during this time, or that no one will be able to kill themselves. The idea that people will not be able to take their lives or be killed, is ludicrous. If someone straps a bomb to their body, they won’t blow up? If someone gets hit by a rocket, they won’t die? If someone is in the middle of a nuclear blast, they won’t die? If someone jumps into a vat of acid, they won’t die? If someone has their head severed, they’re going to walk around headless for five months? These types of questions can go on and on. One soon begins to see how ridiculous that idea is to interpret this literally. We have to keep in mind that Revelation is a highly symbolic book.
Therefore, I don’t believe this verse means that people won’t die or won’t be able take their lives. The fact is, Suicide.org states that “over one million people die by suicide worldwide each year.” That’s over 1,000,000 people! And that’s just the ones who actually go through with it. That doesn’t count all the people who want to die, but don’t. However, the discussion about death is reserved for the sixth trumpet.
Accordingly, it seems clear that this verse merely describes the spiritual anguish and hopelessness caused by not being in a right relationship with God through Christ — which occurs throughout the Church age. It describes the spiritual and emotional “torment” of unbelievers due to demonic influence and the changing world (towards the end). In one sense, all unbelievers during this time will be tormented or harmed spiritually, for everyone who is without Christ is harmed spiritually. But in another sense, and perhaps primarily, this verse refers specifically to those who don’t want to join the world alliance towards the end, as I’ve already talked about. This will cause great anxiety for these people and for these countries.
We have to keep in mind that this is a time of preparation, the uniting of the nations — which I believe to be, at that point, a political and religious and ideological merging of the world, which will result in the uniting of militaries. However, the actual military takeover doesn’t take place until we get to the sixth trumpet. Again, the fifth trumpet is a time of preparation for the sixth trumpet.
When unbelievers see what’s going on, not every unbelieving person or nation will be on board with that plan. I believe that as this worldwide uniting begins to develop – however that happens – it will cause severe spiritual and emotional “torment.” While these particular unbelievers won’t want Christ, they also won’t want to give up what they have to be a part of this worldwide alliance and rule. They’ll be against globalism. It will result in anguish and horror. It will give them a sense of hopelessness. I think much of the world will be terror-stricken during this time. The whole world will be in conflict and chaos. We’re seeing that happening in the world even today as Islamic terrorists carry out their atrocities.
However, since this is still the gospel age during this fifth trumpet, people will still be coming to faith in Christ. I believe that when this worldwide gathering of nations begins to develop, it will cause such spiritual “torment” that it will cause some, if not many, to rethink the Christian message and turn to Christ. With that in mind, the “man of sin” will not be revealed for who he really is during that time, although he will be rising as a leader. Because once he has, then all the unbelievers of the world will be drawn in by his deception (2 Th 2:11-12). Once the events of the sixth trumpet occur, than all the world will be united in the same belief system, and united against the people of Christ.
(Rev 9:7) – 7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war; and upon their heads as it were crowns like unto gold, and their faces were as men’s faces.
Symbolic. Horses are fearless. They’re made for war. They never retreat in the midst of battle. This reveals the war-like mission of this demonic army. Again, this description eliminates the idea that these are real locusts, or even demons in the form of locusts.
“prepared for war”
While spiritual warfare is primarily in view, I believe actual warfare of the nations is ultimately in view. The spiritual drives the physical. Here we see the preparation for war, but not war itself. This is an important distinction. This is a time of preparation for what occurs in the sixth trumpet — the death of a “third” of mankind. Before any war begins, there must first be a lot of preparation. Much planning goes into every battle of every war. We don’t know how this worldwide gathering of nations will develop, but it could take many years, and will be seen by all, including Christians.
This reminds us of the rulers of darkness that Paul refers to in Ephesians 6:12. Demonic spirits rule the spiritual world of darkness. They serve their king, the devil, with authority. Those without Christ are powerless against them. Therefore, we see them as a mighty army moving across the globe destroying who they can. Again, it should be noted that even with unbelievers, these “spiritual forces of evil” still only have limited power — only what God allows. The unsaved still have an opportunity to come to faith in Christ during this time of preparation.
To be clear, as mentioned before, this time of preparation can be seen throughout the Church age (since spiritual deception is foundational in this fifth trumpet), but we’ll see the culmination of that deception close to the return of Christ. It’s that final stage that is primarily in view in this fifth trumpet.
It seems apparent that most of the devouring and destructive demonic activity in the world is done through people. This is true as it relates to false religion, philosophies of the world, evil thinking, psychotic thinking, the occult. Indeed, the whole world system. In particular, I believe these “faces” refer to the soldiers of the world alliance preparing for war before they begin their military crusade against those nations that oppose them — as seen in the sixth trumpet.
Therefore, this demonic army both symbolizes and is the driving force behind the worldwide military that will be gathered prior to the return of Christ. Therefore, it’s important to understand that the final stage of this fifth trumpet is the beginning of the end. The releasing of Satan from the abyss is what begins these last days chain of events. As I’ve already explained, we don’t know everything that will occur during this time. We don’t know exactly how things will all come together. But that is what this fifth trumpet is all about.
(Rev 9: 8) – 8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
Long hair and teeth like lions: wild and ferocious, like a madman who’s been living in the wilderness all his life. Also, with the mention of “lions,” this again helps to confirm that these are demons, satanic activity (1 Pet 5:8). But again, these demonic beings symbolize the wild and ferocious nature of the warriors who make up this worldwide military. Like begets like.
(Rev 9:9) – 9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to war.
“breastplates of iron”
Well protected. Hard to penetrate.
Indicates that there are no offensive weapons that unbelievers can use against them. This refers to both these demonic beings and the warriors whom they incite. When it comes time for the military conquest of the world, they will be unstoppable.
“sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to war”
The visual we get is the same as what we get with real locusts, and that’s of a mighty army – undoubtedly in the millions – rushing together toward the enemy, hell-bent on devouring everything in their path. But keep in mind, this is not the actual assault on the world, which is what we see in the sixth trumpet. What we’re seeing here is the “noise” they make as they rush toward (“rushing to”) the battle. It’s the demonic army inciting the armies of the world. In other words, they’re moving toward what we see in the sixth trumpet. They’re on their way.
(Rev 9:10) – 10 And they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months.
“in their tails”
This type of demonic locust is seen with the tail and stinger of a scorpion, which again, shows that these are not real locusts. The sting reveals that this is not the period of death that we see in the sixth trumpet, but the time of spiritual and mental “torment” of unbelievers as they see how everything in the world is changing and developing. This is that time when much of the world becomes terror-stricken over the events that are unfolding.
Mentioned again for the second time, for emphasis (vs. 5). Perhaps it’s to remind us that, though very ferocious, these demonic warriors are limited in power. But also to emphasize that this is still the time of preparation, before the military conquest of the world actually begins, which occurs in the sixth trumpet.
(Rev 9:11) – 11 They have over them as king the angel of the abyss: his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek tongue he hath the name Apollyon.
It’s interesting that, according to Proverbs 30:27, “locusts have no king.” Yet, these locusts have a king. As we’ve already identified, this cannot be anyone but Satan. Again, the fact that these locusts have a king, reveals that these are not real locusts, but an army of demons, with Satan as their General — who go out to unite the world and gather the nations against the Church (Rev 16:12-16; 19:11-21; 20:7-10).
(Rev 9:12-13) – 12 The first Woe is past: behold, there come yet two Woes hereafter. 13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the horns of the golden altar which is before God,
Sixth Trumpet — Military Conquest
(Matt 24:5-6, 9-14, 22-24; Mark 13:5-13, 19-22; Luke 21:8-19,26)
(Ends with the war of Armageddon)
The fifth trumpet reveals the demonic activity in the world, which is the time of preparation, the beginning of the gathering of nations that will lead to the worldwide assault against the Church — which is the War of Armageddon (Rev 16:12-16). That is what we see here in the sixth trumpet.
The sixth trumpet is actually continued in chapter 11, verses 1-14 (as 11:14 reveals). In this chapter (9:13-21), the focus is on the military conquest of the world and gathering of nations as one, which becomes the “ten kings” of Rev 17:12. In chapter 11, the focus is completely on the onslaught and death of believers (see chapter 11 for details). Chapter 10 serves as an introduction to the seventh trumpet (11:15-19).
(Rev 9:14) – 14 one saying to the sixth angel that had the trumpet, Loose the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates.
The fact that these four angels are “bound,” indicates that these are fallen angels, which are demons. Also, the next verse (vs. 15) confirms this identification, because they’re instructed to “kill,” as the agents through whom this trumpet is carried out. I believe these four demons are representative of the whole of their army. The number “four” is probably a reference to the four corners of the earth. Thus we see the global nature of this trumpet “woe.”
Based on Rev 16:12-16 (sixth bowl judgment), we can positively identify the sixth trumpet as the War of Armageddon. But again, in this chapter the focus is on the military takeover of the world and uniting of nations, which then leads to the war of Armageddon, which is the worldwide assault against the Church. This is the same gathering of the world against God’s people that is revealed in Rev 20:7-10.
To understand the significance of the Euphrates River in this vision, we must look to verse 20 and to the book of Joshua:
(Rev 9:20) – 20 And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk:
I believe this verse gives us a key for interpreting the significance of the Euphrates River in verse 14, which must be interpreted in connection with Joshua 24:2,14-15:
NET – 2 Joshua told all the people, “This is what the Lord God of Israel has said: ‘In the distant past your ancestors lived beyond the Euphrates River, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor. They worshiped other gods……..14 “Now obey the Lord and worship him with integrity and loyalty. Put aside the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and worship the Lord. 15 If you have no desire to worship the Lord, then choose today whom you will worship, whether it be the gods whom your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But I and my family will worship the Lord.”
“Beyond the Euphrates River,” is the land where Abraham and his kin came from, where the people were known to worship other gods (not necessarily Abraham himself). Thus the Euphrates is associated with false gods and false religion, which is what I believe is alluded to here in this sixth trumpet.
However, I believe the mention of the Euphrates River also reveals the identity of this military that will sweep the world. In reference to this river, Rev 16:12 mentions the “kings from the east,” which, if you look on the map, are Muslim countries. But there’s a twist here. It starts out as a Muslim invasion of the world, but eventually all the false gods and false religions of the world will unite (destroyed – Rev 17:16), and the people of the world will give their worship to the leader of this confederacy of nations, who is the “man of sin” of 2 Th 2:3, and the “eighth king” of Rev 17:11.
(Rev 9:15) – 15 And the four angels were loosed, that had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they should kill the third part of men.
“the hour and day and month and year”
Satan leads his demonic army against the world with the ultimate goal of attacking and destroying God’s people. This is their appointed time.
“kill the third part”
Whenever there’s a military conquest of any kind, it will mean death to many. In this context, there will be nations who won’t want to join this union of nations. Those nations will be conquered and brought under their authority.
As with the first four trumpets, I believe the “third part” refers to the limitation that God has placed on this, and not an exact percentage. I believe if Satan and his demonic army were given total free reign, the population of the whole world would be annihilated. So while God does allow a certain amount of activity, it’s within whatever limits He has ordained. In other words, God has placed a limitation on their power. Therefore, the forces of Satan don’t have the freedom to annihilate the human race (Job 2:6). In fact, they’re actually limited to influencing people to carry out their evil schemes for them. But people themselves must be willing recipients of their influence and willing instruments to carry out their acts of evil. Such is the case here. This demonic army is behind this latter days military conquest, which leads to the War of Armageddon.
(Rev 9:16) – 16 And the number of the armies of the horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand: I heard the number of them.
NET – 16 The number of soldiers on horseback was 200,000,000; I heard their number.
“armies of the horsemen”
As I’ve already explained, while this is a vision of Satan’s army of demonic spirits, the “horsemen” mentioned refer to human “soldiers,” through whom demons carry out their evil acts. Thus the horses and horsemen of this vision suggests how demons work together with unbelieving people to accomplish their mission in the world. In this case, it’s the conquest of the world and the uniting of nations.
As with most other numbers in this book, this should be viewed as symbolic, rather than a literal amount. As with the 144,000 and the 1000 years of Revelation 20, this is a number that is in multiples of ten, which represents perfection and/or completion. Thus “200 million” is symbolic for a perfect or complete number representing a countless quantity — millions upon millions upon millions.
(Rev 9:17-18) – 17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates as of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone: and the heads of the horses are as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceedeth fire and smoke and brimstone. 18 By these three plagues was the third part of men killed, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths.
NET – 17 Now this is what the horses and their riders looked like in my vision: The riders had breastplates that were fiery red, dark blue, and sulfurous yellow in color. The heads of the horses looked like lions’ heads, and fire, smoke, and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18 A third of humanity was killed by these three plagues, that is, by the fire, the smoke, and the sulfur that came out of their mouths.
I believe this refers to both the demonic army and the military war machines through which they carry out their warfare. This demonic army works together with human horsemen (“riders”) to conquer the world, uniting the world powers — which ultimately will turn against the Church (Rev 11:1-14).
“fiery red, dark blue, and sulfurous yellow in color”
This may be referring to the same thing as the “fire, smoke, and sulfur:”
“fire, smoke, and sulfur”
“came out of their mouths”
I believe “fire, smoke, and sulfur” has a dual meaning:
First, I believe it’s symbolic for all that opposes the truth. In the New Testament, particularly in this book, these three terms are associated with hell or the lake of fire (Matt 5:22; 13:50; 18:8; 25:41; Rev 14:11; 19:20; 20:10-15; also 1 Tim 4:1-1). Thus these terms speak of all the hellish religions and philosophies of the world, all the hellish thinking and ideas, and all the psychotic/deranged thinking — basically every type of belief system and way of thinking that is anti-Christian. “Came out of their mouths,” probably refers to these false beliefs that come out of the mouths of false prophets and false teachers and every other form of false speakers, through whom the powers of darkness do their work.
Second, I believe it refers to warfare. This military conquest of the nations will leave “fire, smoke, and sulfur” in its wake from the use of weapons and war machines. In this context, I believe that “came out of their mouths” probably also refers to the orders that are given that result in this military sweep of the world. It’s through the orders of leadership that soldiers carry out their warfare. We have to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of this military is to move against the Church (Rev 11:1-14). It’s the false gods and false religions, indeed, the whole world system moving against the truth.
“heads of lions”
Again, this helps to confirm that these are demons and demonic activity, as Peter describes in 1 Peter 5:8. This continues to be a key to properly interpreting the fifth and sixth trumpets. But again, human instruments are used. Both are in view.
“A third of humanity was killed”
(See verse 15)
(Rev 9:19) – 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails are like unto serpents, and have heads; and with them they hurt.
“the power of the horses is in their mouth”
Again, refers to both the falsehood represented by this demonic army, and the orders given by human military leaders. It’s through their orders that they carry out their military mission.
“their tails are like unto serpents”
The mention of “serpents” (snakes), again reveal these to be demonic armies that we’re dealing with here (2 Cor 11:3; Rev 12:9,14-15; 20:2). It’s this demonic army that is behind this human military conquest and uniting of the nations.
Unlike scorpions that sting, snakes kill with quick-striking force. Thus this refers to the quick-striking of military attacks on all who oppose them. This mirrors the quick-striking attacks of Satan and his demonic army. This is a worldwide assault on mankind via corrupt, evil thinking. It’s the combination of this evil thinking and military force that unites the world.
(Rev 9:20-21) – 20 And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk: 21 and they repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
“the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues”
We’ve seen that those who are plagued in this trumpet are unbelievers, those who don’t have the “seal of God” (vs. 4). Therefore, “the rest of mankind,” would have to mean, “the rest of mankind among unbelievers,” because quite clearly, believers are still in the world at this point. We don’t see the resurrection of believers until after this worldwide conquest and gathering of nations is complete, which is what we see in Rev 11:1-14. Furthermore, the “rest of mankind” did not “repent,” which is something only believers do.
So to be clear, a “third” of mankind refers to those people and those countries that don’t want to join this uniting of nations. They will rebel and fight, but will be destroyed. The “rest of mankind” who join this worldwide alliance, refuse to repent of all their evil, of all their sins. Again, this cannot include Christians, because they’ve already repented.
I want to take some time to talk about fornication — sexual immorality. So many who profess Christ today are involved in sexual activity — sex outside of marriage and adultery. It seems to me that sex before marriage among our young people who claim to be Christians, has become epidemic. Indeed, people of all ages. The statistics are very high. This is alarming to me. It shows that God’s people are not being properly taught, that there is not enough warning and emphasis on living pure lives before God. One of the identifying marks of a true Christian is a life of sexual purity. It’s one of the primary characteristics of one who belongs to Christ. But Christians aren’t being taught like they should be. They’re not getting the message. They’re not aware of how serious this is in the eyes of God. I believe there are a lot of pastors who aren’t making it clear enough. They’re not warning their people like they should.
Those who believe they’re saved, but continue this lifestyle of sexual sin, being “unrepentant,” will be surprised when they die and find themselves separated from God. I believe the weak teaching in churches today is leading many Christians and professing Christians astray, leading them many to a Christless eternity (Eph 5:5-7; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Cor 6:9-11). This verse (9:21) reveals the nature of true faith, which is “repentance,” a life that is committed to doing the will of God. True faith follows the One they profess to believe in. A lack of true repentance from sin and self-will, reveals a lack of true faith.
The sixth trumpet continues in Rev 11:1-14, which focuses completely on the gathering of the nations against the Church, which is the War of Armageddon.